Monday, 5 September 2011

"Strife, Jim, but not as we know it."

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín, has launched a campaign to create 1,000 more Irish-speakers by 2015.

Adopting a more on-the-ground approach to promoting the language seems like a sensible expedient given the impasse on bringing legislative protections into line with those afforded Celtic languages in Great Britain (not to mention the Irish language in the Republic). One high-profile figure won over to the new campaign — in what seems like a canny move for both sides — is PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie.

Of course, such a softening of boundaries may shake the odd preconception — and spook those who depend on an absence of normality for their bread and butter. The new initiative has brought a predictable response from the TUV's Jim Allister, who seems to realise neither that bilingualism is a policy grounded in tolerance (and therefore always about the minority) nor that learning and promoting Irish, far from being a complex and labour-intensive means of riling Unionists, may actually reflect a core belief of the language's supporters. On this occasion Mr. Allister's language is particularly bellicose, and after 15 years of relative peace one must doubt its appropriateness.

In November 2009 the TUV was forced to apologise for branding Irish a "leprechaun language".

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